- October 16, 2019
On behalf of Bishop Bambara, and all of us gathered here this morning, I wish to express to Fr John’s family our prayers, friendship and condolences. We also thank Fr. Brian VanFossen and all the parish staff and ministries for all their hard work in preparation for this liturgy. It makes no difference whether someone
On behalf of Bishop Bambara, and all of us gathered here this morning, I wish to express to Fr John’s family our prayers, friendship and condolences. We also thank Fr. Brian VanFossen and all the parish staff and ministries for all their hard work in preparation for this liturgy.
It makes no difference whether someone dies at a young or old age, suddenly or after a long illness, when death comes there is a feeling of emptiness. One who is close to us and loved by us is suddenly gone. It makes us all look to our own mortality. What does help, I think, to ease our sorrow and strengthen our hope is our Faith in God and the promises Jesus has made to us.
I noticed all the facebook condolences “Sad, – we’ll miss him, – too bad, he had so much to give.” All of these feelings are natural and expected because we are looking at Fr. Manno’s death from our perspective, we will miss him.
How about from Fr. Manno’s point of view here, Jesus said, “Come beloved of my Father, I have prepared a place for you.” Throw away that medication, the walker and the cane, off comes the foot cast, no more pain, no more suffering, come celebrate with the communion of saints. You were faithful to Me when, “I was hungry and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, sick or in prison and you visited me.” “Come blessed of my Father, I have prepared a place for you.”
“Everyone who looks upon the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life and him I will raise up on the last day.” Come Blessed of my Father
“The souls of the just are in the hands of God, and no torment will touch them, for they are in peace.” Come, I have prepared a place for you.
These are very comforting words for us who believe. At the end of the creed we pray on Sunday. “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” Do you believe that?
It is so important that we gather today for several reasons:
1. We come together to pray, that whatever sins Fr. John may have committed in his lifetime, that the Lord will forgive his sins. These prayers are not only for John but as a reminder to us, we are all sinners and need the mercy and healing of Christ.
2. We come together as the community of the People of God. The word community means “union with”. We love to join with others to celebrate, weddings, reunions but we know that many times we join with our friends and family to comfort, to cry, and to pray at time of sorrow and need. That is why are gathered here today.
When someone dies we can feel very much alone, but all of a sudden many people come forward to share their love, prayers, concern and condolences. We look around today and realize there are many people who care.
People ask me all the time how long did you know Fr. Manno?
The answer is how old was I when my mom let me cross Campbell St. cut through Grace St. Methodist Church yard, go around Snake Alley (Allen Ln.) to play in Mickey Holloran’s backyard with Mickey, John Manno, Mike Casale, the Bernstine brothers.
How old was I when the light pole in front of Wentzler’s Tire Store went crashing into the middle of W. Third St. where we were playing. Needless to say we bolted from the scene. Wayne Bernstine hid in Betty Manno’s washer, Mike Casale and John Bernstine hid in John’s grandmother Marty’s closet. I ran home to 325 Campbell St. Officer Brown showed up at the Manno house not to arrest anyone but to make sure we were all ok. He came to our apartment on Campbell St. and said to my mother, “Young Johnny Manno reported that your son Charles was one of the boys playing on 3rd St. when a big light fell into the street”. Is your son alright? No one was injured, thank God.
How old was I when Betty Manno, John’s mother was our Cub Scout leader? How old was I when I idolized Don Manno, John’s father who was a professional baseball player. I saw him play at Bowman Field for the Albany Senators against Williamsport Grays? It’s not every neighborhood that has a professional baseball player living there.
When John was preparing to go back to school in August 1962, he came into Smith’s Drug Store where I worked as a clerk. He asked me where I was going to college, I told him that the next semester I was going to St. Pius X Seminary. Astounded he responded so am I. Classmates for the next 6 years.
John and I and 15 other members of our class were ordained as priests at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton on May 25, 1968. He posted pictures of his first Mass on facebook just a few weeks ago. My first Mass the same day right here in this church.
My answer to how long have I known John Manno, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know him. John and my friendship was special, there is nothing we would not do for each other. But, as many of you know, we were and have always been complete opposites in the human spectrum, except for one thing, humor. We would go to Vermont for priestly retreats and we would spend the whole nine hours trip laughing and telling stories.
My nickname was BHB (boy hood buddy), what is your nickname? He gave names to everyone. No one was spared a nickname including bishops, nice nicknames – Bishop Bambara. His joy and enthusiasm for friends was colossal. Stamps needed for his Christmas card list could fund the local post office for the year.
Fr John Manno died early in the morning on the May 30, the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven. What a perfect day for a high flier like John to die. My impression of him has always been that he lived his life like a trapeze artist flying around without a net.
A few hours after his death I had the St. John Neumann School Mass at St Boniface Church. I had the sad duty to announce that Fr. Manno had died early that morning. I told the students the story of the army unit that came into a bombed out town. The church was just an empty shell, just the walls were standing. In an alcove off to the side could be seen a statue of Jesus without arms.
The priest chaplain set up a table and said Mass, during the homily he referred to the statue. “Boys, what do you make of that statue? To me, he said, it is a reminder to you and me that Jesus has Ascended into heaven and that we are His arms and legs, hands and heart in the world. The chaplain said to the soldiers: “Are you willing to be the hands and heart of Jesus in the world?” Our friend Fr. John was one who tried to share Jesus’ hands and heart. He lived his life thoroughly convinced that he could heal all the hurts of the world: or at least the hurts of towns in which he served; Scranton, Pittston, NY City, Mt. Pocono, Conyngham, or Williamsport.
We can say a lot of things about John Manno in jest, but there are certain things about him that no one can deny:
To those with a spiritual or emotional needs, no one had a more listening ear then Fr. M
To those with material or financial needs, no one had a more generous heart than Fr. M
To young people of the parish, no one had been more interested and supportive than Fr. John (as the kids called him).
To those with handicaps or physical needs, no one had a more compassionate spirit to assist than Fr. M.
To those outside parish life, Lycoming Council of Churches, City Fire Department, Campbell St. Center, 9/11 Motorcycle Run, KofC, no one could be more enthusiastic to assist than Fr. M
To those who suffered from addiction, there was no greater advocate. Just last year, he worked with Gwen Bernstine of the Lycoming County Council of Churches to come up with a program for high school student about the dangers of drugs and the addiction drugs cause.
To those whose loved one’s have died, there was no one was more prayerful, sympathetic and involved as Fr. M
I was told a story about John walking his beloved dog Theo, coming up Eliot St. he saw Divine Providence Hospital and thought, “Mary is in hospice and I haven’t seen her in a couple of days”. He dropped the dog off at his house and walked (and that was not an easy task lately) to Gate House Hospice Unit. Mary’s family was all around and Fr John was there with the family when Mary died. Skeptics would say that is a coincidence, believers would say it was John’s willingness to be moved by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, the hands and heart of Jesus in the world.
On our way to lunch one day John was limping. I said what’s wrong with your leg. He said, I fell coming down the stairs. A few days before a man rang the rectory bell at 1:30 in the morning. He opened the window and the man said he needed to talk to him. He said on my way down to open the door, I forgot to turn on the lights and missed a step and fell. That’s really dangerous, I said. Yes, he said, I should have turned on the lights. John, I’m talking about letting someone in at 1:30 in the morning. Oh Ya! [Fr. Manno’s guardian angels needs re-enforcements regularly]
Since his retirement he posted many facebook stories, vignettes, poems, memories and personal thoughts. I encouraged him, he was giving facebook homilies to hundreds from the confinement of his living room. It was a real joy for him to come up with new fervorinos. I downloaded the posts from 2018 and printing them up, there was more than 20 pages and gave them to him at the end of the year. He couldn’t believe how many he posted.
Do any of you believe in premonitions? I do. There were several occasions in my hospital work as a chaplain where people told me they were about to die and they did. On Sunday, May 26 at 6:28pm, four days before his death he posted this poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye:
Do not stand at my grave and weep * I am not there. I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow. * I am the diamond glints on snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain. * I am the gentle autumn rain. When you awaken in the morning’s hush * I am the swift uplifting rush Of quiet birds in circled flight. * I am the soft stars that shine at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry; * I am not there. I did not die.
Jesus Says: “Come beloved of my Father, I have prepared a place for you”.
The memories I present today are my memories. You will tell your own stories. When we gather after the funeral the stories will start, “Do you remember the time that.. or…I remember when”…Stories are how we keep the memory of our loved one’s alive in our hearts. Tell the stories, especially to the children.
“Everyone who looks upon the Son (Jesus) and believes in Him shall have eternal life; and him I will raise up at the last day”.
“The souls of the just are in the hands of God and no torment will touch them”.
We all know the expression, “he’s in good hands”, and Fr John is gone from us to what better hands than to the “Hands of God”. We pray and believe that whatever sins he may have committed during his life are forgiven by a merciful and loving God. We commend our brother Fr. John Manno into the Good and Loving Hands of God, where no torment will ever touch him again, a place of peace, Love and Joy forever.
Rest in Peace ..My Brother
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